Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu visited Belarus on Thursday, seeking closer military coordination with the Eastern European country.
During the trip, Shangfu held talks with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.
What happened at the meeting?
“The purpose of my visit to Belarus is precisely the implementation of important agreements at the level of heads of state and the further strengthening of bilateral military cooperation,” Shangfu said.
Despite jointly agreeing to more miltary drills next year, the two sides did not provide explicit details on what the boosted security cooperation would mean.
“All of our cooperation — and it is very significant — is in no way directed against third countries,” Lukashenko said, according to Belarusian state media. “We don’t need that. We need to protect our states and our peoples.”
Lukashenko noted that Belarus depends mainly on “friends” such as China and Russia for military aid.
In his meeting with Shangfu, Lukashenko also expressed cordial greetings to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“I have deep respect for my friend,” Lukashenko said, referring to Xi. “We have known each other for a long time. Please convey my warmest and best wishes to him and his family for all that China has done for Belarus recently.”
China, Belarus come together amid Western backlash
Shangfu’s visit to Belarus comes as both Beijing and Minsk face fraught diplomatic ties with the West.
Belarus, meanwhile, has been targeted with Western sanctions for its role assisting Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Russia, with the approval of Lukashenko, has used Belarus to launch attacks on Ukraine, with Russian soldiers also positioned on Belarusian territory.
China has asserted that it plays a neutral role in Russia’s assault on its neighbor. Prior to his trip to Belarus, Shangfu met his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu in Moscow amid deepening security ties.
wd/nm (AP, dpa)